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This past weekend, fans of Joss Whedon were treated with the knowledge that he now has an actual Twitter account.. or so we are led to believe. The @JossActual account has no official blue dot as of this writing, but I’ve never believed in Twitter’s confirmation system anyway. How do I know a “celebrity” Twitter account is being helmed by the actual person it claims to be? I don’t. And neither do you.

Sometimes I go along with it, because it suits me. Sometimes the person is so bad at impersonating the celebrity, it’s obviously what I call a “sock” account (think sock puppets). Ultimately though it doesn’t really matter. There’s several accounts that claim to be the fictional POTUS from West Wing Josiah Bartlett. I even follow one of them, cuz when I read that one’s tweets, it sounds like Martin Sheen in my head. Of course it’s just some guy (or gal) who’s a fan of the show. It’s not actually one of the writers of West Wing. It’s definitely not THE Martin Sheen. I don’t care. I enjoy those tweets. Sometimes I even respond as if it’s really him, cuz it amuses me. I don’t know if it amuses him/her or not. Probably kinda creeps them out. I don’t care.

My point is there’s plenty of Twitter Accounts who are who they say they are, and plenty that are not, and if you think you can tell the difference, you might be right, but you might also be kidding yourself.

If you are a sock and you ‘trick’ me one way or the other, it really doesn’t matter. It’s just Twitter. It’s not important. Unless of course something somebody tweets happens to piss off people you care about or accidentally lets out trade secrets that can ruin an industry or government leaks that jeopardize national security.. Okay sometimes Twitter’s important, but whether or not @JossActual is actually Joss Whedon should not be important.

I vocally challenged this assumption in my usual annoying manner during the Monday night #Whedony Chat. We got confirmation from
none other than Maurissa Tancharoen who is Joss’ sister-in-law and quite an accomplished writer singer songwriter producer etc her own self. She even took a photo of Joss Whedon in real time.

JossActual01

I was nonplussed.

The beautiful and very online Felicia Day confirmed Mo’s confirmation as did other Twitter accounts that I am supposed to take as a given are who they say they are (and on occasion i do when i probably shouldn’t), but I didn’t let a little thing like multiple confirmations from myriad sources rain on my parade. Ultimately, no one took the bait and just assumed me a troll. It’s easier to do that than it is to mull over the ramifications of our assumptive behavior. No one sought to challenge me on the point I was trying to make: Identity online is very absurd.

JossActualQuestionMark

An astute and shrewd Twitter participant can tell themselves that they can tell the difference between say, Britney Spears‘ or Barack Obama‘s Twitter accounts which are obviously “handled” by “handlers,” as opposed to an account actually manned by the person who claims to be really him or her, like say Cher, or Kevin Smith.. but what if they just have REALLY good handlers? How would we know?

I have long suspected that Joss Whedon is aware how much people online talk about him behind his virtual back. I feel he frequents the Internet in a lurking capacity and is just very careful when he posts anything anywhere under his public persona. He may have one or more false identities that he uses. I may have even conversed with him online somewhere about something very UN Whedony and I was completely oblivious. I doubt it, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Really, how would we know, one way or the other?

For all we know, active accounts online which regularly fuel the flames of passion for anything touched by Joss Whedon, like Whedonesque, WhyIWatch, Whedony, etc, could be Whedon himself in disguise. This is of course VERY unlikely, cuz the guy’s busy, but again not outside the realm of possibility. A more likely scenario is that someone close to Whedon “handles” those accounts OR others that lurk or participate in the online Joss love-ins that go on now and then. “Interested parties” who are close to either Joss Whedon, or one or more corporate interests that interact with his own production company “handle” an online presence, for research, marketing, and other purposes. We are led to believe that nothing of the sort is going on, and any example of Joss love appearing on the Internet is just obsessed fans like me who have even more free time to devote to waxing vociferously on the web than I have. That could very well be the case. It’s equally plausible we are being manipulated by marketing interests, or we are being duped by Joss Whedon’s second cousin twice removed somewhere in a bunker eating wheat thins and drinking stale beer while laughing at anyone who thinks Joss Whedon is cool cuz he’s related to the fucker and he knows better.

Would there be harm in any of these scenarios, or the countless others I’m not describing in detail cuz this thing’s already too damn long? If Joss Whedon himself were pretending to be a fan of his own work just to drum up interest in his own work? Well that might be a little creepy but I don’t see how it could hurt anyone. Or maybe he just wants to get to know his fans on a personal level without actually BEING who they admire, cuz he’s a fan of them as much as they’re a fan of him. If I were a famous celebrity, I’d be annoyed by people walking up to me and gushing all the time. Don’t treat me like a god. Just buy me a beer. I’d want to know their other interests and how they felt about other stuff besides what I did back in 1997 on some TV series that no longer exists and I hardly see a residual check now. Shut the fuck up about that shit and buy me a “Bob” damned beer already.

Would there be any harm if Whedon is somehow orchestrating this through proxies? And he never actually looks at the Internet himself cuz really honestly he’s a busy guy and he can’t be bothered. He likes to pretend to care about his fan base, and says as much to the press and to fans at conventions, but frankly he’s more interested in the work of telling stories than in basking in the glory of fawning admiration from people who enjoyed his stories. But he wants to give the fans what they want so he sets up this elaborate deal where they think he’s listening when it’s really handlers that he hired to handle it. And he’s up in his bunker eating wheat thins and drinking stale beer laughing at us.

Is that harmful? Either way? Any scenario here? I dunno. I doubt it matters. That’s my point.

Assuming any of these Twitter accounts are who and what they claim is about as silly as.. well.. believing anything you can’t prove. That’s dangerous. Claiming the unproved exists until proven not to exist is as wrong and potentially damaging as insisting someone is guilty in a court of law until proven innocent. We have laws set up on purpose to prevent that. There is a reason why we had to make “innocent until proven guilty” a legal precedent. The natural inclination among human beings is guilt based on emotion and physical evidence is not important. We know objectively this is unjust and irrational. We do it anyway, cuz it feels right. “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And yet we do it anyway.

When we hear about some news report about some guy who allegedly did something bad to other people, and he’s going to trial for it, the natural inclination is to assume the guy is guilty. Why would the newspaper print half a page article about it if he was innocent? This is called trial by media, and it’s very dangerous. There’s a guy named Bryce Ashley Reed from near West Texas who went there to help volunteer. He lost someone in that blast that meant a lot to him. The local authorities investigated and uncovered alleged evidence Bryce Ashley Reed had in his possession the equipment needed to make a pipe bomb. News reports were quick to point out (as of this writing) that Reed hadn’t been charged with anything involved in the recent Fertilizer Plant explosion in West Texas. The police were quick to say people shouldn’t read anything into this. No one’s accusing him of being the guy who started the fire that led to the loss of many lives and millions of dollars in property damage. No one is saying Bryce Ashley Reed is guilty, but no one (except Reed’s attorney) is going out of their way to say he’s innocent, either. Trial by media. Guilt by association.

We often believe whatever we read. We take things as given, when we really don’t have reason to. I guess we’re just lazy that way. Maybe we’re hard wired. Michael Shermer calls it patternicity, that long ago in prehistoric “caveman” days (they never really lived in caves but you know what i mean) if a caveman heard a rustling in a nearby bush, he could either assume it was the wind and keep on walking past it, or he could assume it was a saber toothed tiger about to eat him and run the opposite direction. Now, the cave men who assumed it was the wind when it was a tiger got eaten. The cave men who assumed it was a tiger when it was the wind did not get eaten quite as often. So more defensive cave men survived longer and got to have sex more, perpetuating their genetic code. While less careful cave men who ventured too close to stirring bushes would survive less often, have less sex (being dead and all) and therefore their genetic code wouldn’t perpetuate into future generations.

Humans tend to seek patterns in the noise of life, whether those patterns are accurate or not, and if a behavior is indicative more than once, we expect that to be the case all the time unless shown otherwise. This doesn’t always work, especially with human beings. OJ Simpson used to be a beloved football player and rental car promoter. Nowadays he’s an old guy languishing in jail for trying to steal back his own stuff. He was acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife and her lover. He was never convicted of that crime, but everybody assumes he did it. There was not enough evidence in a court of law to convict him, but everybody believes he’s a killer. There’s a short-circuit in humanity’s patternicity. However, this tendency is a survival instinct. If you assume there are killers where there might not be, that’s perhaps safer than to assume there are not killers where there probably are.

“Trust but verify” has been a politically charged phrase in the past. The upshot of this is to diplomatically agree with whatever someone says to your face, but then behind their back try to corroborate their claims with independent secondary sources. This works fine, if you believe in your secondary sources, I guess. However, what makes these secondary sources any more or less trustworthy than the primary source?

Maybe none of these celebrities are who they say they are. Felicia Day isn’t really Felicia Day. Just a very good imitation. Seems rather elaborate and pointless to go out of one’s way to fake being Felicia Day, but crazier things have happened. Doesn’t matter either way. She’s never gonna ask me out on a date.

For all I know, @MoTancharoen is not operated by Maurissa Tancharoen. Perhaps that Twitter account is secretly handled by her husband Jed Whedon, who is trying to weasel out any “fans” of the Whedon franchise that would sweep his wife off her feet and seduce her into leaving him in a heartbeat. In which case, I would never ever dream of doing that. My heart belongs to Miracle Laurie. Ya gotta believe me! ..okay I lied. My heart really belongs to Janeane Garofalo, who I’m led to believe is not on the Internet, but maybe she’s lurking and secretly stalks me online… one can only hope! …okay I lied. My heart belongs inside my rib cage and I need it to pump blood through my body. Hopefully for at least another fifteen or twenty years before I die of heart disease cuz I eat too many damn greasy hamburgers. I only got about twenty good years left in me if I’m lucky, and I really don’t want to spend them pretending @JossActual is actually Joss.

And by the way, the Earth is flat.

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